Mac Daniel's Advice

CD-ROM and System Problems

Dan Knight - 2001.08.08

I am very ignorant when it comes to the Mac and hope I have directed this to the proper person. Any help you or the others could give in steering me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

My brother purchased a Quadra 650 in late '93 and used it for six years. During that time I know he made upgrades (System 7.5), added many accessories (fax modem, printer, port juggler, paper port), and installed various software - all of which I am trying to figure out since I acquired it after his death last year. It seemed to have such capability that I would like to be able to utilize all of this myself.

The problem I am having is when I try to open any of the software, even the operating system items, there seems to be some aspect missing on the hard drive that prevents me accessing it and utilizing the programs. What I would like to do is start fresh by reinstalling the 7.5 upgrade CDs and adding the additional software as I am ready to learn it. Unfortunately, when I insert a CD, the computer does not recognize that there is a CD inserted and does not bring up an icon on the desktop. The computer has a AppleCD 300i CD-ROM and I get a message to be sure at least one CD-ROM drive is connected and restart your Mac. My questions are:

  1. How can I check this?
  2. Do I need to install a new CD-ROM? If so, where can I find one that is compatible and about how much will it cost?
  3. How can I completely clean up the hard drive and start over? I have the upgrade system disks (CD) but not the original operating system disks. Or is it possible that the 7.5 are what it was originally equipped with?
  4. What do you recommend as the best course of action? As I've stated, I'd really like to be able to use all of this but am not willing to spend as much as it would cost for a new computer.

Thank you so much for your time and any help you can give me. It will be greatly appreciated. I was so glad to find this site.


The solution could be as easy as inserting the CD-ROM and then restarting the computer while holding down the C key on the keyboard. Doing this instructs the Quadra (and more recent models) to boot from CD-ROM instead of the installed hard drive.

Failing that, the most common culprit is a loose SCSI cable inside the computer - but only if someone has been inside the case since the last time it worked. If someone has fiddled around inside the computer, open it up and make sure the wide ribbon cable is tightly seated both on the motherboard and on the CD-ROM drive.

Replacing the CD-ROM

If that's not the problem, it's very likely that the CD-ROM drive has given up the ghost. You'll need to replace it, and you have three options:

  1. An Apple CD-ROM drive.
  2. A Sony CD-ROM drive.
  3. A third-party CD-ROM drive.

Used Apple drives are often available on eBay, and you may be able to find unused ones from various dealers. With Apple drives you know they're 100% compatible.

Except for Sony, third-party drives may be bootable (be sure to check before investing) but will almost always require third-party software to access the CD-ROM when running from the hard drive. I've gone this route three times in the past five years and generally recommend against it.

My personal choice with older Macs and clones (like my SuperMac) is Sony drives, which are compatible with Apple's drivers and can also boot the Mac. These tend to be available at yesterday's speeds (4x, 8x) at very affordable prices - sometimes under $20.

If you plan on using the CD-ROM heavily, look into an 8x or 12x mechanism. If you'll mostly use it to install software and maybe play CDs, a 4x is twice as fast as the CD300i inside the Quadra. It will also save you money.

Installing the System

Once you have a working CD-ROM drive, you should be able to boot directly from the System 7.5 CD by holding down the C key while starting the computer. The next question is whether you want to completely wipe the hard drive or not.

My recommendation is that you not wipe the hard drive unless you are sure you have the software for all the peripherals, especially non-Apple products like the fax modem and scanner. Remember that formatting the hard drive will erase everything on it - the system, the drivers, the preferences, the software, and the documents.

If that's what you want to do, find the Drive Setup utility on the System CD and use it to format or initialize the hard drive. Then double-click the System Installer and give the Quadra about 30 minutes to complete the job.

If you choose not to wipe the hard drive, you will want to do a "clean install" of the operating system. It's been at least 8 months since I've installed System 7.5, and I don't recall if "clean install" is a standard option or not. It if isn't, quit the installer, hold down the option key, and relaunch it. On most versions of the installer that don't normally show a clean install option, launching with the option key held down give you the option of a clean install.

What a clean install does is ignore the old System Folder and create a brand new system installation. The old System Folder is renamed and all the files are retained. This makes it possible to pull out drivers, preferences, and other files from the old System Folder and move them to the new one. (There's a great program called Clean-Install Assistant that automates the process.)

Once you have System 7.5 installed, I recommend you get the Quadra connected to the Internet and download System 7.5.3 and the System 7.5.5 update from Apple's site.

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